The Bush rule sought to remove key environmental protections governing the 191-million-acre National Forest System. Regulations issued in 2005 sought to overhaul the land-management planning process for national forests by eliminating mandatory protections for wildlife and clean water, and mandatory limits on timber harvesting. These regulations also sharply curtailed public participation in the process. Among the measures the Bush administration attempted to discard was a key regulatory guarantee of wildlife viability in the national forests that had been in place since the Reagan administration.
"We are glad the Bush administration has thrown in the towel. The national forest planning rules are like the Constitution for our national forests, and the Bush administration tried to throw out the Bill of Rights," said Trent Orr of Earthjustice, who argued the case before Judge Hamilton. "The Bush rule made any wildlife provisions in forest management plans aspirational, not mandatory. Our wildlife deserve better than a hope-and-a-prayer planning system."
Judge Hamilton found that Bush administration officials had bypassed legally required environmental review and endangered species protections in creating a new management system for the national forests that eliminated enforceable environmental protections from the forest planning process. Judge Hamilton also ruled that the administration had sprung its final forest planning rules on the public without sufficient notice of the paradigm shift that the rules accomplished. Her ruling prohibits the "implementation and utilization" of the Bush rules nationwide.
A Victory for Public Participation
The National Forest Management Act requires the Forest Service to protect wildlife in the national forests and to allow citizens to participate fully in management decisions. The Bush rules invalidated the 1982 standards for national forest management instituted by Ronald Reagan that protected species and required public review of the environmental impacts of proposed national forest plans governing timber harvest levels and natural resource protection.
The court's invalidation of the Bush rules is a strong signal that full public involvement in decisions regarding their public forests must be restored.
Earthjustice represented Defenders of Wildlife, The Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club and Vermont Natural Resources Council in the legal challenge to the Bush administration rule changes.
Pete Frost and Marc Fink from the Western Environmental Law Center represented Citizens for Better Forestry in a similar case that will also end with this motion of dismissal.
Read the motion for dismissal filed by the Forest Service.